An important international conference on the fight against online child sexual abuse was recently held in Helsinki, Finland. Here, INHOPE, the International Association of Internet Hotlines, talks to the organisers of the conference to discuss the work of the Finnish hotline and why international cooperation, terminology, awareness raising and reporting are so crucial in the fight against online child sexual abuse.
Last week in Helsinki (15-16 September 2016), you organised and hosted an important international conference on the fight against online child sexual abuse. Can you briefly present here the spirit of the conference, its Nordic focus and the main outcomes?
The conference was part of Save the Children's work on our breakthrough goal "violence against children is no longer tolerated". It gathered specialists working against online child sexual abuse from different fields such as law enforcement, NGOs and the public sector. We managed to attract relevant people and we had excellent contributions from our speakers. I would say that the event was a success and there was a strong willingness to collaborate both internationally and nationally. There seems to be a common understanding that issues related to online child sexual abuse need to be raised on a very different level on our national agenda in Finland. There were some excellent conversations of joint Nordic advocacy work and the discussion will continue at the ECPAT Nordic Forum in Stockholm in November. Also we managed to achieve a better vision and road map in order to work with industry due to active participation of our operator and ISP (internet service provider) partners.
In terms of the outcomes, we did raise awareness and the work of the Finnish Hotline, Nettivihje, became more familiar for other stakeholders. The conference gathered 150 participants from all around Europe, and experts working in the field of child protection, criminology and prevention of sexual abuse gave inspiring presentations. I would say that it is quite an excellent outcome on its own.
To ensure that all partners are speaking the same language, an international working group, which includes INHOPE, released in June 2016 ‘Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse', also known as the ‘Luxembourg Guidelines'. As the Finnish hotline, you have been campaigning for more accurate and respectful terminology. Can you tell us more about the current actions to achieve that objective?
‘Terminology Guidelines' was one of the key topics of conversation at the conference. We are aspiring to gather an international network to work with this in cooperation. The Luxembourg Guidelines are an excellent basis in order to create discussion on a national level. It is clear that the process will not be an easy one and there is quite a lot of controversy and ideology linked to the terminology used. It is not going to be a simple translation process but rather a large joint collaboration with all national stakeholders. It is too early to say when and how we are going to achieve what we want in terms of the terminology, but work has already started and especially the LEA in Finland is really active on this. Using common terminology is the basis for quality data collection. We need research based on quality data to show the extent of the problem we are facing.
In your awareness-raising work as the Finnish hotline, you have long been visible at events where you educate the public on the right to be free from exploitation and abuse and why reporting suspected child sexual abuse material matters. Can you share with us why you believe it is important?
We strongly believe that a complex issue, such a dissemination of CSAM and preventing online child sexual abuse, requires a creative mind set and a wide perspective into awareness raising as well. We are pioneers in the case of trying new things, reaching wider audiences (e.g. professionals working in other fields, sexual rights activists) and networking with unconventional partners. Every year we participate in the Finnish Sexhibition Fair, raising awareness in the area of keeping adult pornography clean of CSAM. We try to practice what we preach and really reach a wide audience and alliances to tackle the huge problem of sexual abuse.
This article was originally published on the INHOPE website, and is republished here with permission.